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Methodius Buslaev. The Scroll of Desires
Dmitrii Emets

Methodius Buslaev. The Scroll of Desires
Дмитрий Александрович Емец

Мефодий Буслаев #2
В стародавние времена маг-алхимик Бругус изготовил свиток желаний, на который наложил заклинание усиления. Свиток он спрятал в одну из двух шкатулок, защищенных магией Света, и отправил их странствовать в лопухоидный мир. За прошедшие века свиток приобрел чудовищную магическую силу. Свиток желаний – артефакт нейтральный. Он может служить как Тьме, так и Свету. Ищут его златокрылые, ищут и стражи Мрака. Если Тартар обнаружит шкатулку со свитком первым, произойдет катастрофа… А еще мудрецы из Прозрачных Сфер утверждают, что история свитка напрямую будет связана с Дафной, стражем Света, и Мефодием Буслаевым – будущим повелителем Тьмы…

Dmitrii Emets

Methodius Buslaev. The Scroll of Desires

Oh, friend, why worry about the secrets of existence? Why torture body and soul with difficult reflections? Live happily, spend time in joy; at the end, they will not ask you why the world is as it is.

Look at the morning, arise, young man, and breathe the joy of dawn! A time will come when you will search and not be able to find this moment of life, which so surprised us in this illusory world. The morning threw off the cloak of gloom, what is there to mourn? Arise, we will make use of the morning, because many mornings will still exist, when there will already not be a breath in us.

    Khayyám

It is a ridiculous thing for any man to dispense with wickedness in himself, which is in his power to restrain, and still strive to suppress it in others, which is impossible.

    M. Aurelius

The soul is a living essence, simple, incorporeal, reasoning and intelligent, making use of a body, and being the source of its powers of life and growth, sensation and generation. It is a free essence, presented with the ability to want and to act, changeable in will, having the min… as its purest part.

    St. John of Damascus

Chapter 1

Rendezvous with the Unlucky Wretch

Moscow had not yet managed to cool down after the hot and stuffy June day. The sun was lying breathlessly on the roofs and panting; however, dim evening shadows were already roaming along the ground. The drainpipe, which Daphne touched in passing, was scorching hot. She winced. Trying in every way not to be different among normal people, she had recently adjusted her pain threshold, making it the same as that of moronoids, and now she never got tired of being surprised by new sensations, constantly making some new discovery.

For example, after thoughtfully drinking boiling water, it is possible to warm up for the rest of one’s life. New footwear gives lots of discomfort. A bitten tip of the tongue hurts for a whole week. If we immediately start on ice cream after tea, teeth begin to ache and the enamel cracks like ancient cliffs. If running romantically barefoot through a puddle, a jagged bottle bottom can easily cut the sole. In general, moronoids do not have a life but continuous limitations. One has to remember so many of all kinds of nonsense!

Manoeuvring between passers-by, Daph continued her jaunt, not having a specific goal or route. At this hour in house № 13 on Bolshaya Dmitrovka, they were accepting reports from succubae and agents. Ares politely asked Daph to disappear somewhere and not to scare the nervous Gloom folks with her Light essence and the flute protruding out of her knapsack. Daph herself was glad to leave. The dejected plasticine faces hardly inspired her to continue making acquaintance and, in general, to creative work.

The infernal cat Depressiac, sitting on Daphne’s shoulder, had not given up its attempts to get rid of the overalls. These were black leather overalls, entirely covered with snaps and zippers. Daph had acquired them in the store Petfun. The overalls hid the wings, which even now swelled under them like two mounds. Furthermore, Daph could not control herself and, giggling, purchased for the cat a tiny choke collar – leather with bright long studs, which jutted out, true, not on the inside, as in serious collars, but on the outside. Depressiac was indifferent to the collar, tolerant, but in all of an hour, it rolled on the ground with a heartrending screech, attempting to strip the collar off with its back feet.

Daph crossed Kaloshin Alley, and passed Krivoarbatskii Alley, when suddenly on Plotnikov Alley a black limousine of unprecedented length blocked her way. Hey, this was some limo! With cast wheels, a herd of horses under the hood, and sparkling with a waxy shine in spite of the specks of mud on the doors and the fenders.

Daph stopped, patiently waiting for the limo to pass. However, it did not move, occupying almost the entire width of the alley. After shrugging her shoulders, Daphne wanted to squeeze through between it and the wall of a house, but the automobile sharply backed up and, with the bumper almost resting against the house, again blocked her way. Through the tinted glass, Daphne could not see who was sitting in the car. True, it seemed to her that she could make out the flame of a cigarette, glowing crimson like the furious eye of the Cyclops.

Depressiac on Daph’s shoulder stopped battling with the overalls and was on guard. The cat’s tail began to flick dangerously. It arched its back. It started to hiss, digging its claws into her shoulder, and baring its small triangular teeth. Simultaneously Daph at the telepathic level perceived waves of fury and fear issuing from the cat. Fury was okay. Depressiac, possessing a nature as nice and pleasant as Tartarus itself, continually flew off the handle and threw itself on any dog without exception, be it even the size of a pug-dog named Uncle Baskerville. But here fear… This was something new. Depressiac did not even particularly fear the Garden of Eden rock griffins coming alive. Daph was downright worried. Her cat possessed stunning intuition and it was a bad sign that it feared someone or something.

Daph’s hand slid to the flute and extracted it from the knapsack. However, before taking any measures, it was worthwhile to determine precisely what she had come across. She concentrated, squinted slightly, and looked at the limo with true sight. She discovered no magic and calmed down, after deciding that she was dealing with those usual moronoids, with hormones running wild, that every pretty girl has to contend with from time to time. Nevertheless, this relief lasted altogether only for a moment. Suddenly, on adrenaline rush, Daphne’s heart began to skip like an elastic. Her stomach cramped up. The long hair, grey almost to white, stood on end, disobeying the law of gravity, and invoking in a small part of the public a complex, close to hallucinatory, association with the terrible Tibidox sorceress M. Gorgonova. This happened at the moment when Daph understood that she not only discovered no magic but also NOTHING at all inside the limousine.

The usual space that one looks at with true sight was empty. By definition, a void cannot exist in the world. Even if there is no magic in it, there are hundreds of other weak energies and flows, which tint space similar to watercolour on a background. Each thing has its essence, and these essences constantly act on each other. Thus, two identical ballpoint pens, one of which, say, was used to write a denunciation and the other a postcard to a beloved grandmother, are two completely different pens from the point of view of magic. A moronoid can easily confuse them but never a guard of Light or a guard of Gloom. And atoms have absolutely nothing to do with it here.

However, in this case internal sight showed nothing. Everything was cleaned out. The limo was just that. No more and no less. As if it was never on the streets, scaring cats and passers-by. No one’s thoughts, which had to touch it at least casually, were imprinted on it. And at the same time, it was very proper, sleek, and ideal. It created this sensation that a compact black hole, carefully tied up with pink nylon threads, gaped inside the limousine. Daph had never had the chance before to encounter this protective shield. She suddenly realized that she had met something unknown and extremely dangerous. Would the flute help here? It is not known how an unknown something will react to its attacking trills. Suddenly it dawned on Daph that true sight was simply not enough here. Or, possibly, the look was not long enough… If she would be somewhat more persistent and…

The limo suddenly roared, took off, and, having made a U-turn in two stages in the narrow alley, disappeared in the direction of Prechistenka Street. Its license plate was bespattered with mud, and next to the left rear headlight was a sticker of a skull. And this skull, speeding away, ominously winked at Daph.

Daphne followed the strange automobile with a puzzled look, and then set off for the subway station Smolenskaya. She walked and reflected. She was certain of one thing: there was no way of explaining the appearance of the limousine as chance. Someone specifically wanted Daph to understand that he was following her. Did this clearly and demonstratively, barely hiding. And what was more: he knew ahead of time where Daph was going and where it was possible to meet her. And this put her on guard the most. It alerted her because even Daphne herself, wandering without any purpose around a city centre she was poorly acquainted with, did not know this.

Daph was still seething and indignant for a long time, recalling the defiant red spot behind the tinted glass, but soon youth and flippancy took over, and, after seeing a little store near the subway, she counted the change in her pocket. Depressiac’s collar and overalls left Daphne almost without cash, but Daph somehow had not decided for the time being to ask Ares for money. Well, is it not ridiculous for an omnipotent guard of Light to find herself in this idiotic position? There was only enough change for one thing: either potato chips or a pop. After weighing all the pros and cons, Daph bought the cheapest bottle of pop, believing that pop without chips was nevertheless still pop, but chips without pop would be a snack merely hanging in mid air and without any meaning.

Not too long ago, Daphne without a twinge of conscience would teleport everything she needed from a shop window or, simpler, pay off the salesperson by flicking her finger and generously transforming the dish for small change into gold; however, now this would be unpardonable carelessness. Guards of Light would immediately spot a change in the mystical field, would determine the individual magic style, and after several minutes a detachment of golden-wings would be here. And this time it would be doubtful if she could slip off. No luck can continue infinitely.

Daph, as before, remained a wanted fugitive guard. The incident with the labyrinth, which gave Methodius Buslaev the force, had hardly changed Daphne’s life. Like a ropewalker, Guard General Troil was balancing on the thin wire between life and death. However, to the rest of Light, she was now a traitor with black feathers in her wings. A traitor banished from Eden.

Pensively looking at the bottle cap preventing her from reaching the pop, Daph pondered whether it would be proper if she allowed Depressiac to bite it off, and whether it would evoke some harmful interest among the moronoids. In the end, she decided not to upset them. Their short seventy-year life is already so full of all possible shocks. “A head cold keeps them awake. A heart attack makes them sit up,” Julitta usually added. Daph opened the bottle against the edge of a phone booth scratched by many predecessors and, looking forward to the coolness, she began to raise the bottle to her mouth. Suddenly her hand trembled. The pop splashed on her chest.

That same limo was ten metres away. It was obvious that it had travelled along Glazovskii Alley, in a mysterious manner passed all signs and obstacles, and in a round about way dragged itself over here. Daph’s mouth became dry like having the sands of the Sahara in it. Her first thought was to dive into the subway where the limo precisely could not follow her, but her second one was to approach the car confidently and demand an explanation. However, the first option seemed cowardly to Daph, and the second required super-courage, which so far she had not discovered with the most thorough search. As a result, Daph did neither, but something in the middle: namely, after remaining on the spot, she drank the pop in large mouthfuls, although the pleasure had already been poisoned. The coolness now gladdened her no more than a butterfly accidentally flying under the jets of a waterfall. The limousine remained at the previous place. No one left it.

“If these were guards of Light, they would have summoned the golden-wings. Moreover, flashy cars are not our kind of transport. Ours would come on a bike and, helping an old lady cross the street, would unintentionally destroy a dump truck with maglody. If guards of Gloom… hmm… this vulgar car is more their style. But why would they follow so obviously, when even without it the world is full of invisible spirits serving Gloom? Why would guards of Gloom follow me in a limo, if I’m living at Ares’, what would they have in mind? But what am I afraid of after all? Yes, must approach nevertheless! This is simply shameless! They are getting on my delicate kiddie nerves!” Daph was angry.

After putting the bottle down on the asphalt, for encouragement she touched the bronze wings hanging from a lace on her neck, took the flute out of her knapsack and, having gotten up to the limousine, knocked loudly on the window. Moronoids looked at her with surprise. This girl’s brain was clearly tied up in knots. She threw herself at the car, kicked it, beat it with her fists, and swung the flute with a determination even a savage would not have clubbing a tortoise crawling out to the sand. And here on her shoulder was a rather weird-looking, bald cat, clearly sick for a long time as a kitten, in overalls and a bright collar, arching its back and hissing.

“Hey, who’s there? What do you want from me, huh? Come out!” Daphne shouted. However, the window of the limousine remained raised. Even almost burying her nose in it, Daph saw only her reflection in the mirrored surface. In that moment, it seemed to the stupefied Daphne that radiance originated from her reflection, and a golden semicircle of aura appeared above her head. She grew numb, not believing her eyes! The glass of the limousine reflected true essences, and for that reason, the car could only have very distant relation to the world of the moronoids.

The instant Daph understood this, the limousine again started and began to drive away quickly. “Aha! You’re running away! There, there, you get out of here, get out of here! Spin the pedals, before they break your buggy!” Daphne began to yell triumphantly. She sensed the triumph of a Neanderthal, who, having used cries and firebrands to drive out of a cave an old bear with tangled fur, moved in there with his entire family, and, just in case something else might still be hiding in the dark, let the mother-in-law in first. In the end, again trying to knock on the car roof with her flute, she ran several steps, but, after catching curious looks from the passers-by, recollected suddenly and, filled with the same consciousness of victory, dived into the capillary network of Moscow alleys.

In approximately half an hour, Daph crossed Boulevard Ring at Strastnoi Boulevard, above the Chekhov subway station. Having already stepped onto the pavement, she felt a prick of anxiety. She realized belatedly but very distinctly that someone was following her and, moreover, had been doing so for a long time. Daph stopped abruptly and turned around. A tall, athletically built man in a short leather jacket and a silver belt with a buckle in the shape of a skeletal hand was following as if glued to her. After noticing that Daph was looking at him, the man was startled and stared at the sky with such a deliberate look, as if he had discovered at least enemy parachutists there. Daph laughed – it was so absurd. Probably, her contemptuous laughter reached the stranger’s ear, because suddenly he, not disguising himself anymore, decisively made his way to Daphne. His right hand slid into a pocket.

After jumping over a bench – on one side an enamoured couple was huddling timidly, and on the other side a student of land reclamation, with abstracts and a bottle of beer, was sprawling imposingly, occupying a large part of the bench – Daphne, dodging, dashed away to run on the lawn. Depressiac was jumping on her shoulder like a dashing rider from the Perm Circus. Daph ran quickly. The world fell away. Mothers with strollers, trashcans, freshly planted lindens along the boulevard – everyone and everything enjoying themselves, spinning, leaped into her eyes like busy spots.

It seemed to Daph that she had lost her persecutor, but unexpectedly he appeared directly in front of her – appeared so suddenly, as if he was not running but simply standing, arms crossed on his chest, and waiting for her. In a panic Daph jumped over a cast iron fence, scared the rushing cars with swift chaos of movements, and darted to the first entrance she came across. Gripping the long wooden handle, she jerked it, was pleased that there was no code-lock, and dashed up the stairs. She shot past mailboxes, flew up ten steps at a time, and… An iron door rose up directly before her. A cursed code-lock was installed nevertheless, though not below, but for some reason between the first and the second floor. Petty and mean villainy!

Daph realized that she had gotten herself into a trap. To hide in the entrance was obvious foolishness on her part. Indeed if one is on the run, then run to a crowded place. She pushed the door with her shoulder and began to press the buttons chaotically – it was useless. The stupid heartless iron was not going to let her pass. Then Daph grabbed her flute, ready to resort to an attack maglody. Let golden-wings trace her, but she was not surrendering without a fight! “We’re forcing our way through, Depressiac! Get ready!” she whispered. The cat started to hiss and protracted its claws with the sound of a switchblade unlocking. It, like yesterday’s cutlets in the fridge, was always ready.

Footsteps were already thundering on the stairs. First appeared the toes of heavy boots, and in an instant even the persecutor. Drops of sweat on his wide forehead stretched out in a chain like the Kurile Islands. As before, he was keeping a hand in his pocket. “Hey you, stop! Just move and you’ll be sorry!” Daph shouted, quickly bringing the flute to her lips. This was a serious threat. The power of maglody was not inferior to an automatic weapon. In any case, Methodius so asserted, having once observed how Daph used maglody to break into smithereens bricks he tossed up on her request. The stranger moved away, anxiously eyeing the flute. This was already strange. Moronoids were usually amused when someone threatened them with a flute. Probably, the long-standing influence of the proverb “Born a fool, die a fool.” had an effect. “Gosh! You forced me to run a little after all!” he said, panting.

“No jokes! What do you have in your pocket? Take out your hand… slowly… even slower… no sparks, no tricks! I’m warning you!” Daph nervously repeated. “Fine, fine. You also calm down!” After shrugging his shoulders, the man slowly took his hand out of his pocket and unclenched his fist. Daph distrustfully moved a little forward. On his palm lay small silver wings, from which a bright light radiated like waves. They differed from Daphne’s bronze wings, hanging from a lace on her neck, in that both wings were looking back a little, having a barely noticeable sharp bend. If the bronze wings had the likeness of an eagle’s wings – these more resembled the wings of a storm petrel or an albatross.

“What, are you also a guard of Light? But why are your wings not quite right?” Daph asked already much more peacefully, however, without lowering the flute. “Yes, I’m Light. But I’m not from Eden. I’m not among those who consider you a traitor and thirst for punishing you!” the stranger said with a smile. “Hmm… Sounds somewhat drunk. Then where are you from?” Daph asked not without a challenge. Fate again began to tempt with its opportunity for everyday rudeness. “I’m from the Transparent Spheres, my dear child! I’m your guard-keeper! My name is Essiorh!” Daph grew numb. The flute in her hands lowered by itself. The Transparent Spheres, situated at the top of Seven Heavens, were home to those who stood over the guards and protected them. Even Troil’s guardian was there. “You are my guard-keeper? You?” she asked distrustfully. “And why not?” the stranger was astonished.

Daph stared at him with suspicion. It goes without saying that she knew her guard-keeper undoubtedly existed. But that he would look so… eh-eh… unconventional. She must admit that she had visualized something much more respectable. So bald, with tortoise-shell glasses, slightly boring, drawling, with a music folder under his arm, and a tiny speck of green on his cheek, under which hid a small and decent teacher’s pimple… But here… ahem… military boots, all in leather, provocative belt… hmm… to analyze in general, amusing. After securing such a guard-keeper, here she would also be able to remain in her usual style.

Essiorh, after bending his head, looked with a critical eye at his own figure and the belt with the buckle in the shape of a skeletal hand. “Is my body troubling you, my child? Perhaps you don’t know that keepers from the Transparent Spheres, in contrast to you Eden guards, cannot be on Earth in their true bodies? Must admit, this brutal appearance, a mountain of muscles and the chin of a savage also disturbs me; however, it appeared there were no other bodies in our terrestrial storage. Selection was poor to almost nil. Taking into account that a talking dog is somewhat frivolous for a first meeting of a guard and his keeper, I nevertheless would take a human body. Moreover, there were still… hmm… a few other reasons.”

Daph nodded. “Good it’s not a dog. My cat… On the whole, I want to say that we could slightly scratch a dog easily. People would then think that the dog had been frolicking, excuse me, with a circular saw.” “Even a talking one?” Essiorh was horrified. Daph nodded dejectedly. “Alas. I don’t think that it would have time to speak. Even with the word ‘hello’ it would only reach the letter ‘e’…”

Essiorh reproachfully shook his head. “Ahem… Well, so there it was… My good child, I hurried in order to inform you: your immortal essence and your wings are in great danger.” Daph dropped her eyes. Essiorh looked at her with the well-developed incinerating severity. Daph learned severity № 27 of the General Catalogue of Reproaches and Moral Admonitions for Influence on Mortal and Immortal Essences Endowed with Conscience (program of class 97 of guard-educational high school). “Wow, they teach our keepers using the same textbooks!” she was mentally enraptured.

“Listen to me, unhappy child! Listen and be frightened! It’s not enough that you – voluntarily or not – stepped on the slippery path of service to the guards of Gloom, not enough that your new masters steal eide! Not enough that the circle of your contacts is composed of agents, cursed witches, pagan tramps…” he was rattling like a machine gun. After perceiving that he had made a slip of the tongue, Essiorh winced slightly; however, he did not begin to correct himself. He thought it would probably just slip through. “Who are these pagan tramps? Surviving Trojans grown wild? Dangerous specimen probably? Perhaps you had in mind pagan gods?” Daph asked pitilessly.

However, her sting did not succeed. Essiorh already knew how to wriggle out. “…Don’t interrupt! I have no other designation for these pagans imagining themselves as gods… And the succubae, disturbing the righteous sleep of mortals with exciting visions, perhaps they belong to the society, which a guard of Light needs? But the speech is not even about this! After all, all this can be written off as an accident and errors of youth. You did something more terrible, quite nightmarish!” Essiorh lifted a finger and traced an inspired line, one end of which rested against the nearest cloudlet, and the other on Daph’s nose. Daphne waited with trepidation for the continuation. And it followed immediately.

“An impression of your Light wings has turned up on the scroll stolen by one of the servants of Gloom. With your action, you have stuck a dagger into the heart of Light! You have messed up the veins of good and evil! Do you at least understand what you have done?” Essiorh got carried away. His voice rose increasingly higher. The entrance glass started to vibrate. The code-lock grew warm. The bright buttons began to weep with the scorching metal.

Daph coughed politely but persistently. “Can I ask a question?” “Ask!” Essiorh said, clearly grieved by the desire to be contrary and to refute all her arguments. “You said: ‘An impression of your wings has turned up on the scroll.’ On what scroll?” Essiorh frowned. “What? Are you pretending? You dare to deceive me? To lie to your guard-keeper?” “But I’m not lying. I saw no scroll… That is, I saw three railroad cars of scrolls, but something that special, I would remember… And I didn’t leave an impression of my wings anywhere!” Daph stated, after looking at Depressiac. “And what do you think of that?” The cat kept its opinion to itself.

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